In this series:
Religion is practice
Some things take practice. But when the practice is over, we must act.
Religion, as it exists throughout the world and through history, is practice. It prepares the mind with deep thoughts, meditation, and understanding. It trains you to make good decisions, to see when things aren't how they appear. It uses symbols and traditions and ritual actions to ingrain itself in your mind. It uses authority structures and leaders to help you become the kind of person you want to be.
But then you have to stop practicing. And you have to start living in the real world.
When you first learned how to ride a bike, there's a good chance you had training wheels. Those training wheels allowed you to get a feel for riding upright, while practicing the motions of pedaling and steering. And then one day, the training wheels were removed, and you pushed off into the real experience. And that experience was completely different than what you had been doing.
No matter how far you ride, no matter how tired you get, you will never go back. The training wheels have served their purpose, and whether you are Lance Armstrong, or someone who hasn't ridden in years - chances are you will never need those training wheels again. Next time you ride, you will simply jump on and go.
The New Testament writers call this moving from shadows into truth. To them, the rituals, the symbolism, the structures of religion, had all served a purpose. But they were not the end point of human life - they were the beginning, and once the scaffolding of religion had fallen away, real human life could emerge.
This is why Christianity is a unique phenomenon. Christianity is not the world's best religion - it is the moment at which one stops practicing, and starts living.
If you need practice, then practice. If you need to learn, then learn. But then practice is over, and you have to take off the training wheels, and ride out into the world.